Saturday, 22 February 2014

beautiful morning!, tutes, st barnabas church, digital humanities, knowledge exchange, hollybush witney

















A beautiful morning! On a day like today, the last two dreary, dampened months are already a distant memory. (Only to return next week? Perhaps - but with lessened force, let's hope!)

In Oxford for one-to-one assignment tutorials today. On the bus in, answered work emails and organised next week's diary; a brief walk along the Jericho part of the Oxford Canal (photo above - showing St Barnabas church and the old boatyard that is under threat of redevelopment). Now, a cup of camomile tea at Caffè Nero before a walk back up the Oxford Canal, following my usual route but in reverse - a treat indeed! Then the tutes in the University's Summertown building.

On Tuesday, I went to a very exciting event on Digital Humanities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_humanities) entitled, Promoting Public Engagement Through Digital Projects in the Humanities. Guest speakers from different departments within the University, spoke about their work and in particular about harnessing public support for projects, either in terms of funding or valuable contributions (crowd-funding and crowd-sourcing).

A well-known (non-Oxford) example of the latter is the Jeremy Bentham website (Transcribe Bentham - http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Bentham-Project/transcribe_bentham), that seeks to digitise all of the philosopher's manuscript documents and make them freely available to scholars. Members of the public have been enlisted to transcribe manuscripts a page at a time, under the direction of academic supervisors. Studies of similar initiatives reveal that the benefits to participants are fascinatingly various, ranging from the enjoyment of taking part in the venture to seeing the work as a therapeutic distraction from a life-crisis.

At Oxford, crowd-sourcing led to the creation of an inspirational archive of World War I ephemera which were brought to roadshows and digitised (Great War Archive - http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/gwa). The project has now been extended to Europe.

A digital curator from the Bodleian Libraries talked about getting crowd-funding for a recent project to digitise the Bodleian's Shakespeare first folio (the only extant first folio still in its original binding). See http://firstfolio.bodleian.ox.ac.uk. (The first folio, incidentally, disappeared from the Library's collection in the late 1600s. It reappeared in 1905 but the Library had to pay a great deal to get it back. An oil baron was also interested in the book, which bumped up the price astronomically and the University had to enlist the support of donors through an ad in the Times to acquire it - an earlier instance of crowd-funding!)

Digital Humanities at Oxford (see http://digital.humanities.ox.ac.uk) is a growing part of the University's drive to share its collections and knowledge more widely - an initiative known as Outreach but which is increasingly being referred to as Knowledge Exchange. An area I'm particularly interested in through my work for both the Bodleain Libraries and the Department for Continuing Education (http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk). My online work for the Department has meant that I have helped to bring Oxford courses to students studying around the globe. They participate on a course via its dedicated website or via Skype one-to-one tutorials.

Off for a late lunch at the Hollybush, Witney, later (http://www.hollybushwitney.co.uk).

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